Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Lending My Coffee Shop a Hand

So I’m not sure whether this counts as one of drew’s blurry lines or not, but this morning I found myself in my coffee shop, surrounded by an unusual amount of apparatus (even for me). I had the laptop connected to the power cable I supplied some months back, was installed in my regular table, had the laptop on, course materials scattered around the table, and was wearing headphones because I was waiting for a call on Skype… In walks someone doing a book on Melbourne coffee shop culture – who was, apparently, spending the morning visiting this coffee shop, as well as the coffee shop the reading group frequented prior to this one. They had wanted to photograph the place before it became crowded – I was the sole patron on hand… One thing led to another, and I soon found myself signing a photo release form – just in time for Lynda to walk up, hoping to catch me in my “office”, and get caught in the photo shoot herself.

The photographers asked me to “Just keep doing what you were doing”. Then they asked me to tilt my laptop (“otherwise we can’t tell what it is in the photo”), such that it was impossible to work on that. Then they circled around as Lynda and I spoke, flashing at us from different directions and occasionally leaning over to reposition coffee cups, papers – and, eventually, Lynda’s head. They were comparatively uninterested in my head. With me, it was my hands. “It looks good when you move your hands in the shots!” the photographer volunteered, seconded by the person holding the lights. Er… okay… I tried to concentrate on the conversation with Lynda (wasn’t the idea to capture us actually, you know, doing what we would normally do in the coffee shop?). The photographer started making motions with his hands in the background, willing me to move my hands more so he could get a good shot. I shifted my gaze so that I could look at Lynda without seeing him. This brought the light persons more clearly into view. He obliged the photographer by making vast hand motions at me as well, wafting the light around in great circles behind Lynda’s head.

I explained that the hands moved when I spoke: if I wasn’t speaking, the hands would be silent too. I went back to talking to Lynda – flash! snap! – the hands must have moved… They asked me to take a sip of coffee. The hands don’t move while holding a coffee cup. “It’s probably cold, too, isn’t it?” the light person asked. It was indeed.

My favourite moment was when they apologised to Lynda for interfering with the meeting. “Not at all,” she tried, “didn’t even notice.” Mmm-hmm… Completely unobtrusive, naturalistic research…

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